A commonly asked question posed by those contemplating their first garden is: Will gardening save me money? As with all good gardening questions, the answer is “It depends.” Since that is not very helpful, I will elaborate.
The first question to ask is “How much money do I spend on fresh vegetables?” If you eat mostly meat and potatoes, take out, or prepared foods, then growing a vegetable garden is not likely to be a big cost-saver. On the other hand, if you eat a lot of fresh veggies, particularly if you choose to purchase organic, growing your own may save you a pretty penny.
The second question to ask is “How good is my gardening location?” If you have a plot with lots of sun, rich garden soil that receives plenty of rain, then gardening will only cost you time and the price of some seeds and plants. It will definitely pay off! Most of us garden under less than ideal conditions, so the chances are a vegetable garden will cost more than it saves.
But gardening is not purely economic–there are many benefits that cannot be evaluated in dollars and cents. I think the real question is:
Is Gardening Worth It?
For me, the answer is a resounding YES, and let me tell you why.
Commune With Nature
The number one thing I love about gardening is being out in the sun (and sometimes the rain) with my hands in the dirt, turning the soil, planting seeds, and watering the garden. I know it sounds very Zen, but in the hectic world full of technology and non-stop busyness, I think it is very spiritually and emotionally grounding to “get back to the earth.” The timetable of a seed cannot be rushed–I can nurture and provide essential nutrients, but the miracle of creation and growth is not under my control. As I try to manage everything around me (sometimes micro-manage), this reminds me what my true role in life is. This is especially true for me as a mother.
The truth is, gardening is in my blood. It is in my bones, in my genes. I come from farmers–generations and generations of farmers. My grandfather was the last to manage the farm; since then we’ve become very suburban. While I swore up and down as a young girl that I WOULD NEVER HAVE A GARDEN, as an adult I treasure the opportunity to connect to my ancestors in this way. As I work in my garden, I can’t help thinking that I am doing the same thing my great-grandparents did to feed their families. It is very grounding for me.
Work Is Good
I enjoy gardening because I believe in work. While I respect the creative and intelligent work that is so prevalent in our society, I truly appreciate work that requires both mental and physical effort. I think it is ironic that we have machines to do our work (laundry, dishes, vacuuming, lawn mowing) and then we go get on machines to burn energy and stay fit. So I believe in housework, yard work, and gardening.
Eat More Healthy
It may be true that I don’t shop the vegetable isle as much as I ought, but when I grow my own I am VERY motivated to use every last carrot, beet, or lettuce leaf I grow. After all the time, energy, and work put into my garden, I find I want to eat it all. I know this translates to healthier eating for my family.
Honestly, my husband hates yard work, including gardening. And I promised myself that I would never force my children to participate if they didn’t want to. Still, the time I spend in the garden is very often time spent with my family. I work away, planting seeds, plants, watering, tending, loving my garden. My husband sits in the shade of the early evening and plays the guitar, while the boys play in the yard. Sometimes my 6 year old son wants to help, which is even better. I find that the family gravitates to me, not because of my sparkling personality, but because it’s so pleasant to enjoy a relaxing evening outside, together.
I feel it’s important for children to understand how the world works, including the natural world. Gardening is a world of experiments, wonder, and development. I also want my children to know where food REALLY comes from–not a shelf in the store, but from the earth, and it starts as a seed.
Another reason I garden is to develop self-reliance. It’s not that I’m planning on a catastrophic event, or a doomsday end of the world scenario were we all have to grow our own food. I don’t grow enough to feed our family entirely out of the garden–we’re more like garden snackers. But I like that I know how to do it, and if I had to, I could ramp up my efforts and do a fair job at providing essentials for our family.
My final reason that gardening is worth it–I love homemade salsa. I would say that half of my garden is dedicated to tomatoes, peppers, and onions, all so my family can enjoy fresh salsa in the summer, and canned salsa for the rest of the year. I also can fresh peaches every year, because there’s nothing better than home-canned peaches. I don’t think I save money, but the quality of store-bought goods cannot compare.
In summary, there are many reasons to grow a garden–some are practical, others are principle. If you really want to decide if a garden is worth it for you, be sure to consider the financial cost, as well as the non-tangible benefits of gardening.